Could Low Cholesterol Levels Jeopardise Brain Function?

| January 19, 2012 | Comments (3)

Suck the water out of brain tissue and what you’re left with is mainly fat. The brain is also very high in cholesterol. This substance actually plays a key role in the normal functioning of the brain.

Just these very facts alone might cause us to be wary about driving cholesterol to ever-lower levels as is the vogue. Is it possible that in doing so we jeopardise the brain’s functioning?

It is certainly true that some people who take statins report negative effects on their brain function. Problems with memory and concentration are not uncommon. It’s not assured, of course, that the problems these people experience are a direct consequence of lowered cholesterol levels in the body. However, the possibility still exists.

Some supportive evidence for this notion comes in the form of a study, in which researchers compared cholesterol levels in people at various stages of Alzheimer’s disease (the most common form of dementia) with those in individuals not suffering from the condition [1].

What they found, in essence, is that those with Alzheimer’s disease had significantly lower levels of total cholesterol as well as low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. Also, those with late stage Alzheimer’s disease had lower cholesterol levels compared with those with less advanced forms of the disease.

Finally, in those with Alzheimer’s disease, higher levels of cholesterol were correlated with better scores of mental functioning, as assessed by a test known as the Mini Mental State Examination (MMSE). The authors of this study concluded that: “The results support the presumption that lipid profile might be connected with the aetiology [causation] and progress of AD [Alzheimer’s disease] and showed the association between low serum cholesterol and LDL-C levels and cognitive decline in patients with AD.”

Now, studies of this nature are what are termed ‘epidemiological’ studies, which look at associations between things. Just because two things are associated does not mean one is causing the other. In other words, we do not know from this study that low cholesterol is actually causing Alzheimer’s disease and impairing brain function. However, we need to at least stay open to this possibility, given cholesterol’s basic functions in the brain.

Here’s to a healthy heart

Dr John Briffa
for The Cholesterol Truth
Dr. John Briffa

Bear in mind all the material in this email alert is provided for information purposes only. We are not addressing anyone’s personal situation. Please consult with your own physician before acting on any recommendations contained herein.


1. Presećki P, et al. Serum lipid levels in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Coll Antropol. 2011;35 Suppl 1:115-20.

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Category: Latest Cholesterol Research, Statin Drugs Side Effects

Comments (3)

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  1. Gail Holness says:

    Dr Briffa

    Do you have any feedback on the book Grain Brain.

  2. David @ Normal Cholesterol Levels says:

    Okay, I know – I was just on your site, but I keep finding these great articles which I tend to agree with. Did you read that article a while back about the woman who helped her husband (I belive he had Alzheimer’s) recover greatly by feeding him MCT (medium chain triglyceride) oil, figuring, I think, that his brain could no longer run on carbs, but was very happy in a state of ketosis? Good stuff.

  3. Travis says:

    I am a 195 lb. 39 year old male, non-smoker with the following natural cholesterol levels:   TC – 79, Trig. – 43, HDL – 48, LDL – 22.  I can track this low cholesterol up to about 15 years ago.  1 1/2 years ago I started taking medication for Attention Deficit Disorder.  After researching info concerning low cholesterol, I believe this to be more the cause of my ADD like symptoms.  Due to my lack of ability to focus, difficultly recalling information, and lack of ability to work quickly I have stepped out of my field of work that I received my B.S degree in.  For as long as I can remember, I have had low energy.  Blood work did not show any underlining illnesses. My doctor is calling this a genetic occurrence.  I truly can relate to the information you have provided here.

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